MEET THE SPEAKER: Rafa Lombardino


As we gear up for the ATA Conference in San Francisco this November,
the PLD blog will be featuring speaker profiles
so that our readers can learn more about

the upcoming sessions and start organizing their schedule.

Interviews conducted by
Elenice Barbosa de Araújo, member of the PLD Leadership Council

rafa orange“Dad Is Cool and Mom Rocks: A Wild Ride Translating a Husband-and-Wife Book Series on Parenting”
Portuguese and Literary Translation ― P4
Friday, 10:00am-11:00am; All Levels; Presented in: English and Portuguese
» Read summary here

“DotSub: Online Platform for Basic Transcription and Subtitling”
Language Technology ― LT-10
Saturday, 2:00pm-3:00pm; Beginner; Presented in: English
» Read summary here

Rafa Lombardino, CT is the president and chief executive officer of Word Awareness. She has been translating since 1997. An ATA-certified English to/from Portuguese translator, she has also been certified in Spanish>English translation by the University of California San Diego Extension, where she teaches two online classes: “Introduction to Swordfish” and “Tools and Technology in Translation” (the latter became a book in 2014). She has completed 22 book translations and has two more currently in the works. She is a content curator for eWordNews, a bilingual blog on book translations and self-publishing. She is also a trainer at and the editor at Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories.


What made you choose these themes?
For the literary session, I wanted to share the type of adaptations and domestications I resorted to while translating three books written by a husband and a wife about their parenting experiences, so as to make the language used in the Portuguese-to-English translation truly universal. As for the subtitling session, I’ve been using this web program professionally and, after launching my channel on YouTube, I received several questions from viewers who were interested in how I subtitled my own videos. Having run a couple of webinars on the subject, I’ll adapt the material to this session to show ATA attendees how this program can be used to their advantage.

How long have you been working in your area of specialization?
I started working as a translator in 1997, right after I finished high school, but I only started working full-time in 2004, after moving to the United States. I’ve been mostly working with materials on computers and technology, as well as corporate communications, since I have degrees in data processing and journalism. However, in 2011, I started to follow my lifelong dream of translating books and, since then, have added literary translation to my set of specializations.

How many times have you presented at an ATA Conference?
I had attended conferences in New York, Boston, and San Diego before feeling comfortable enough to speak before an audience. Since the one in San Antonio, I’ve been talking about my experiences with literary translations, technologies that help translators become better professionals, and my work with translation students. I’ve done five presentations so far, so I’ll have a total of seven under my belt after San Francisco.

How will the audience benefit from your sessions? 
The DotSub session will be the more practical one, since attendees interested in working with transcription and subtitling will be able to start working with the web program after they get the introduction during the session. The literary one will be more entertaining, and I hope attendees enjoy the decision-making process I will share so they can reflect on such a process when making their own decisions in the course of their translations.

What did you want to be as a child?
I’ve always loved movies and TV, so I had considered working behind the scenes as a producer or even a director. I have always been an avid reader as well, reading books that inspired movies and TV shows, but I knew I lacked the creativity to write fiction pieces. There were no related courses in town once I was getting ready to start college, so I decided to major in journalism instead and wrote several movie and theater reviews for the university paper. By that time, I was already working as a translator, since I had fallen in love with languages after having my first English class in 5th grade. So I can say that I’m following my dream now, being a translator who works with books on a regular basis and sporadically translates subtitles for movies and TV shows.

What was your first career choice?
I worked on some short-term computer-related assignments after earning my Associate’s Degree, but I spent three years teaching English, while also working as a translator since 1997, so I’d have to say that the only thing I’ve ever done in life is working with languages―whether it was a programming language while fulfilling my duties as a data processor or actual languages while teaching and translating. Almost 20 years later, I can’t see myself doing anything else, really.

What is your favorite book/movie?
Oh, there are so many! I used to spend hours and hours watching movies, sometimes going to the theater all by myself for a double feature, especially for those cult movies none of my friends wanted to watch. My friends say I used to be a walking IMDB, ‘cause I had movie titles, their respective year of release, and actor names memorized―but that was before I had kids and lost some brain cells… Nowadays, if a movie makes me cry, it kind of deserves to be highlighted, ‘cause I don’t cry that easily. So some movies that always come to mind are “A Single Man,” “Before Night Falls” and “The Sea Inside,” but I’ve always been a fervent Almodovar fan as well―I have watched “Live Flesh” countless times. As for books, there are also so many, but I guess right now I’d have to say my latest translation will stay with me for quite some time: Nanette Blitz Konig’s “I Survived the Holocaust.”

What is your favorite hobby?
Besides reading and watching movies and TV shows, I’d have to say doing some sort of physical activity, ‘cause that’s what I do most often in my spare time. I have very high-energy kids, so I have to stay in shape in order to keep up with them. Lately, I’ve also been spending a lot of time cooking, since I decided to do meal preps every Sunday to have meals ready for the entire week. It’s more practical that way and it prevents me from resorting to last-minute quick meals that may not always be the healthiest of options.

What/who inspires you in the profession?
I have many colleagues I admire, but I’d have to say I’m inspired by beginners, like my students who work so hard to hit the ground running. As far as my work as a translator, what inspires me is the diversity of subjects and tasks I am able to work with on a daily basis, which doesn’t allow me to get bored.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

+ one = 2